Whales of the Allegheny  / The Crown and Anchor Pub / The Nurse Log

Whales of the Allegheny 

The view exhausts me. Typical curtain

of drizzle in the floor-to-ceiling window,

typical plunge of the hill scrub down

to the Lincoln Highway. Over my shoulder

the chemical salesman sighs into ice, searching

his glass for the red-maned roan of youth.

He waits on it to show, hard galloping fence lines,

but even the mirrors here have called a truce.


What more should we expect, the rivers

content with hauls of spent bottles and broken

headboards? With their scarves of foam mingling

in the wind, what eighty-foot silhouettes could

they ever hope to bear, slipping past Point State

Park, trailing sparkling capes of exhalation

in the falling dusk or you, floating cloud-eyed

with them, on your back toward the eventual sea?


The Crown and Anchor Pub

We have come to the end

of the crawl, with stones

in our palms, with the glass

of green bottles shimmering

in our kneecaps.


We have come to the Crown

but no longer mention the anchor

which has sunk into memory,

pinning the grackles to hot sidewalks.


The usuals are here, brumating

winter frogs who close their eyes

on the darkened street where

someone is shouting drink up, drink up.


But we don’t go in. Instead, one

of us wraps his arms around an oak

and begins to weep. Which one I can’t

remember, only how easy it was to

mistake distant radio tower lights

for stars full of portent.


When we walked home, kicking

at streetlamps, laying claim

to the future, our shadows fell

into the empty creek. Hostas hid

clutches of butterfly eggs there.

Luminous brains were trembling

on the underside of every leaf.


 The Nurse Log

Your empty mouth bared in awe and hunger

as sleep would have it. Your lips chafe around

a black egg. From your hollow the remnants of night

come padding out to wander your tongue, then the bazaar

of this forest air. Juniper, cedar needle, warm Heineken,

Marlboro, Paris by Yves Saint Laurent. Coalroot curtains

the clearing of your bedroom, where you shed dress after

dress until giving in to exhaustion. Pretty in pink, isn’t she?


Formica vanity. A bed of water. Interpretations of spring rain

sewn into a field that shivers with absence at your back. Absence

of the denim jacket. Absence of his blunted shoulder blade, of

his throat, the hollyhock, of any green and feathered touch. Slowly

you’ve been edging into wet earth to make from your fallen body

a new garden. Look. A hemlock grove is struggling out of you.

Tobias Peterson’s work has appeared in Superstition Review, AMP, Ghost City Review, Coldnoon, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in poetry from Texas State University and has taught writing in Texas, England, Spain, and most recently at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. He lives across the Columbia River from there, in Portland, OR. Visit him at http://tobiaspeterson.com/.